Report of the Nigerian Ship Registry Review Committee not shrouded in secrecy – Ilori

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Engr. Emmanuel Ilori was the Chairman, Nigerian Ship Registry Review Committee and now Chairman of the Implementation Monitoring Committee to monitor the implementation of the Nigerian Ship Registry reforms. In this interview with our correspondent recently in Lagos, he dismissed insinuations in some quarters of the recommendations of the committee being shrouded in secrecy, critical areas of reforms recommended in the report, the process of monitoring implementations of the recommendations of the review committee and so on. Below are the excerpts;   

Some stakeholders have alleged that the report you submitted to the Director General of NIMASA as the outcome of the review of the Nigerian Ship Registry which your committee undertook recently was shrouded in secrecy. What do you have to say about that sir?                      

The report was not shrouded in secrecy, absolutely not. And we consulted very widely when we were doing the findings. We invited all the critical stakeholders to a meeting at Eko Hotels and at that stakeholders’ meeting, we spoke with the ship owners, the commercial institutions, the lawyers, professional bodies for their views about the ship registry and what they felt can be done.

So, there is no iota of truth that we did not, we interacted with the users or those who engage the vessels, the IOCs, we spoke to them on their experiences of using the vessels, we invited the banks, we invited the ship owners, don’t forget that stakeholders are members of that committee. So, the committee’s activities were not shrouded in any secrecy, it was very open and it was stakeholders led committee; it is not NIMASA led reform…

I think the argument is more on copies of the report on the final outcome of your review job did not get to stakeholders to enable them make their final input before implementation begins?

Well, the stakeholders did not set up the committee, it is not their report, it is a report that should be submitted to those who constituted that committee but the issue is that were the stakeholders carried along? Is what contained in the report includes their input? Yes! All major stakeholders were invited, we sought their opinion, their experiences and what they would like to see and don’t forget, it is not just Nigerians who have interest in a successful Nigerian ship registry, there are other interest in a successful Nigerian ship registry.

So, we consulted very widely before we arrived at our recommendations and after the report was submitted, the DG NIMASA then constituted the Implementation Monitoring Committee which again is stakeholder led to ensure that not only the report is implemented but the implementation process is monitored.

So, there is a major stakeholder involvement in this reform, this is not a NIMASA reform and the second thing is that a working ship registry is in the best interest of the stakeholders. This is one report that is in the interest of the stakeholders to ensure that Nigerian Ship Owners have the best flag so that they can be proud of the vessels they owned under the Nigerian flag, so that the nation itself can be proud of the vessels flying Nigerian flag, so that Nigerian flagged vessels can go anywhere in the world will sure that they not going to be subject to any arrest or detention. That is why the reform is very important and the stakeholders’ interest is paramount, the national interest is equally paramount so that we can have a quality ship registry that all of us can be proud of.

So, it is not a one sided reform, it is a holistic reform that we are embarking on. Don’t forget that in the year that Nigeria is going for an election, it is part of campaign that Nigeria is seen to be operating a quality Nigerian Ship registry. So, all eyes are on Nigeria and we can’t afford to get it wrong. It is not about sentiments.

As the Chairman of the Review Committee, can you summarize the critical areas of review as contained in that report?

There are three major issues that we are focusing on; the quality of Nigerian Ship Registry is it financially acceptable? Does it attract global integrity? Does it have technical integrity? Is it user friendly? These are major issues that we looked at and this is to guide implementation because the reforms are under these three major areas so that the owners or those people who are flagged under the Nigeria registry can have some pride in the vessels and in the process leading to the registration of their vessels.

The ship registration process is part of that reform. Is it easier for them to register ships under the Nigerian ship registry? If it is not, why not? I mean we can make it easier. How can they register their vessels? Is there any technical process? All this are part of the reforms that we intend to see.

Now, that the report of the review committee has been submitted and the NIMASA DG reappointed you as the Chairman of the Implementation Monitoring Committee to implement your recommendations, what should the stakeholders expect?

What they can expect is different from what they used to see in the past. If you remember when this process started, most of us agreed that we are not going to submit a report that is going to be business as usual, that won’t take us anywhere. And we need to give credit to the DG because don’ forget that this reform forms part of the Minister’s directive. When the Minister of Transportation came in four years ago, one of the things he said was that he wanted a review of NIMASA. Don’t forget that he set up a committee at that time to review NIMASA and one of the recommendations of the review committee was the flag registry reform.

So, we need to go back a little bit to where it started from. The administration was convinced that there will be need for a change and the reform of NIMASA was critical to that and the DG NIMASA who was saddled with the implementation of that report has been very efficient in trying to turn around NIMASA. It is work in progress and I think they are making progress. You cannot expect a NIMASA that has negative perception more than four years, now being accepted globally and it is a step in the right direction and ship registry reform is part of that process.

What do you expect to see at the end? I mean we expect to see a reformed ship registry that is attractive to everybody, that we can all be proud of. Don’t forget that part of the review involved NLNG. NLNG is a major stakeholder in the review of the ship registry and they are part of the implementation committee. So, the challenges or the concerns of a very big ship owning entity like the NLNG will be taken into consideration. Just imagine you have NLNG vessels flying Nigerian flag and that will be one of the things we will be aiming for. We are going to inject some quality into the process of the Nigerian ship registry.

How long are we expecting this implementation process to last?   

It is not a short term thing. Don’t expect that you are looking at a flash in the pan. Some of the reforms are quick fix issues, there are some of them that will be done short term, some of the will involve institutional changes, some will involve legislative amendment. It is a holistic reform, that is why you see that it Implementation Monitoring Committee. So, we will continue to see processes improve, you will be hearing reports of changes and you will be hearing reports of various reforms of that registry.

It has never happened before but you will be seeing things happen now that you have never seen before in the Nigerian ship registry.

So, one will be correct to say that the Implementation Monitoring Committee has no time frame to conclude its assignment?

From our perspective, we must continue to give improvement to the process, some things you see that are short term, some initiatives will be started that you will see that will take some time to take effect. I mean these things did not just happen overnight. There are things there that you will see don’t happen very quickly. Take for instance; you know the issue of ensuring that the ship registration process conforms to IOC standard, that one you will see very soon. The digitization of ship registration process that is ongoing, these are some of the things that you will see happen in short term. The turnaround time for you to register ship, these things you expect to see happen in short time. But there are things that might involve some legislative process and those for legislative process don’t happen overnight.

What will a reformed ship registry achieve in a nation without a national carrier?

They are mutually exclusive; they are not related at all. The ship registry deals with ships flying Nigerian flag, national carrier will naturally fly Nigerian flag. Take NLNG for instance, when NLNG starts to fly Nigerian flag, is it not national flag? So, it is not whether we have a national carrier or not. Ships that fly Nigerian flag are national carriers. So, all these things people are saying about national carrier, what does it mean? So, if you are talking about ships going foreign that are flying Nigerian flag, of course, naturally, when they have any stake to own a ship that is going to be Nigerian flagged, nobody is going to stop them but they must have sound commercial arrangement for them to be able to own ships that can go foreign. So, I don’t see the issue of national flag and Nigerian Ship Registry as an issue. With a national flag, you carry Nigerian flag, you carry Nigerian cargo. Take cabotage vessels for instance, they are supposed to carry Nigerian flag and they have exclusivity of cargoes within the Nigerian waters. So, the issue of national carrier is not an issue.

What are ships flying Nigerian flag stand to benefit in this whole exercise?

They still have exclusivity of Nigerian cargo but there are other initiatives that formed part of the reforms that we are working with so that they start to have economic advantages and national advantages occasioned by statute and this is one the things that we are looking into as part of the reforms. If you are flying Nigerian flag, you should be able to have some benefits of flying Nigerian flag. It is part of the recommendations that we made. Other nations provide support for ships flying their flags and that is what we are working on. If you are flying Nigerian flag, you must have tangible benefits, both financial and technical support that you are flying Nigerian flag.

Photo: Chairman, Nigerian Ship Registry Implementation Monitoring Committee, Engr. Emmanuel Ilori.

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